To make the best use of our limited time in Iceland we planned an afternoon flight arrival at Keflavík airport with an evening reservation at the geothermal wonder: The Blue Lagoon. We booked our reservation months earlier as we heard they limit the number of people in the pool at any one time and it can be difficult to secure a reservation on the spot.
After some delay and difficulty we finally picked up our rental car. With temperatures just above freezing we could still see traces of snow on the road as we navigated towards the distant plumes of steam rising across the stark but beautiful Icelandic landscape. We parked the car, grabbed our suits, and headed towards the spa entrance. On the way we got our first close up look at the eerily rugged and raw vocanic land that is Iceland.
We entered the spa and suited up. Those with hair (not me) were told to put copious globs of spa provided conditioner in their hair. Apparently the geothermal water at the Blue Lagoon contains high levels of silica, and while silica isn’t necesarily harmful to hair it can make it a stiff and unmanagabled mess as the minerals build up.
Greased up with conditioner we walked outside into near freezing air, where a cold rain drizzled upon us, and quickly made our way into the warm silty azure water. The super heated 38°C seawater channeled into the lagoon from over 2000 meters within the Earth was hot in some spots and pleasantly warm in others. No place in the lagoon was deep enough to be over our heads. The salty water made you bouyant and so we half floated and bobbed our way through swirling mists to the swim-up bar for a drink and a complementary silica face mask. We relaxed ourselves in the warm waters, volcanic stream rooms, and hot whirlpools, until we turned into silica soaked prunes. Sufficiently soaked we removed ourselves from the pools and dressed ourselves to make the forty minute drive to Reykjavik while it was still light.
Reykjavik is a super quaint and cute city. And the Ion City Hotel couldn’t have been more conveniently located. The small 18-room boutique hotel on Laugavegur (a main shopping and dining street) was only a few blocks from the Hallgrimskirkja church. As if in a moonage daydream we were greeted at the door by a portrait of David Bowie in Berlin (where we had just flown in from) as well as a glass of champagne while our rooms were prepared. The customer service at this hotel was impecable, especially Ricardo at reception who received us. He walked several blocks to where we had parked our car, carried a disproportionate number of our bags back to the hotel, told us where we could park for an extended period of time for free, advised us on how to find our tour the next day, and recommended to us excellent places to eat dinner that night as well as a bakery nearby for breakfast the next morning.
Following Ricardo’s suggestion we walked past Hallgrimskirkja and Tulipop (what reminded us of an Icelandic version of Tokidoki) to a restaurant called Kol. We had heard horror stories of the bleak and challenging Icelandic food; Hákarl (Fermented Shark), Súrir hrútspungar (Sour Ram’s Testicles), Svið (Sheep’s head), Slátur (Blood Pudding or Liver Sausage), Lundi (Puffin), Hvalspik (Whale blubber), to name a few. But the food at Kol was excellent, proving to be one of the best meals (and most interesting cocktails – I ordered “The Total Witch Hunt”) of our European trip. It was also one of our most expensive. Food and drink in Iceland is very expensive. When our bill came we realized why the duty free at the Keflavík airport was so popular. I highly recommend grabbing some items there, especially load up on the Icelandic chocolate and the Icelandic liquourice as well a bottle or two of wine to take back to your hotel room.
With a belly full of food and drink, and my wallet a little bit lighter, we wandered back through the streets of Reykjavik to our hotel. On the way it occured to us why there were ear-plugs placed on our bedside stands. Ion City Hotel is only a few doors down from Dillon Wiskey Bar, which that night seemed to be featuring one of Iceland’s Black Metal bands. While it was loud, and I was glad to have the earplugs, hearing the pounding double bass drumkit and gutteral retching of a metal band my first night in Reykjavik couldn’t have made me happier. I slept great.